The day started in the early hours for many – constantly being awoken by the shaking of the train, the departing passengers singing as they left or the selling of chai tea up and down the aisles as people tried to sleep. Still, spirits were not dampened, and as we pulled into Varanasi at 10am, we were excited to see what the day ahead held.
And that was… rain. Rain and puddles. Rain, puddles and running streams in the road. No one came to India for rain.
We were quickly on our way to the hotel however and after a quick opportunity to leave bags in rooms, we had an early lunch – with a strange Chinese style menu this time. Still, the chocolate brownies were a hit.
After lunch, we had time to rest and relax – many went to have a proper sleep in a bed, whilst others took the time to have long showers. This was very much appreciated.
The afternoon brought with it more rain, but nevertheless we were determined to head out and see the sites. We were first introduced to the Buddhist religion and given a brief history of the ideas and foundations, before we headed to Sarnath – the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon after achieving enlightenment. A calm and peaceful place, we were able to see many Indian and Tibetan Buddhists on pilgrimage to this very special site.
As the sun set we headed down to the river Ganges via rickshaw. Luckily the rain had stopped so we were able to travel with the roof down. It’s great to see the sights of Varanasi at street level – the colours of the shops, the smells of incense and food filling the air and the vitality of the people around you. Although a little perilous being on the roads with bikes, buses, trucks and the odd cow or two, it certainly allows you to feel as though you’re experiencing the ‘real’ India.
Down by the river, we were observing the nightly arti ceremony – offerings will be made to Shiva and the holy Ganges. It’s difficult to put into words how overwhelming this was to watch – the colours, vibrancy, contemplation and meditation as well as the light and the sounds. The girls were able to reflect on their own journey and experience in India this week.
Back to the rickshaws for the journey to the hotel, we once again got to experience India at street level. It’s going to be an early night as we’ve got to be up at 5am to head to the Ganges for an early morning boat trip.
Ps we weren’t as successful with the haggling for Miss Turnbull as we’d hoped. So far we’ve been offered eight goats from one guy, and two camels and two goats from another. We’re going to go back down to the Ganges tomorrow and try and find a better price. We’re won’t go for anything less than two elephants.